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  • Writer's pictureRichard Hammond

Car-free days out in Britain

As part of our ongoing series on Car-Free Travel, Richard Hammond provides a few examples of car-free days out in Britain (see also our post on Car-free walks in Britain)

Travelling on trains and buses makes the journey all part of the day out. On the way you can read the paper, play cards, take time to switch off. Without being tied to where you’ve parked the car, you can do linear walks and bike rides, and of course you can enjoy a drink before returning home. Most major cities have excellent rail and bus networks, so you can travel across town without the hassle of parking, or head out to the countryside to many wonderful visitor attractions that often give discounts if you arrive by public transport. Here are a few examples of car-free days out: leave the car and the congestion behind, and away you go!

group of three hikers walking over bridge
Walkin gin Arnside & Silverdale. Photo: Diana Jarvis/Greentraveller

Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), Machynlleth, Wales

Learn all about modern sustainable living at the epicentre for all things green in the UK. CAT was established by a group of environmental scientists and engineers in 1973 on the site of a disused slate quarry, initially to reinvent green technologies, but it then evolved into a demonstration and teaching centre for practical solutions for a decarbonizing world. Despite its name, it now provides hands-on learning for all aspects of sustainability (not just alternative energy), including environmentally friendly building techniques, woodland management, organic gardening, ecology and conservation of biodiversity. The large outdoor centre has lots of fun wildlife activities for children to connect with nature and the environment. You can also stay overnight at CAT in one of several eco cabins (each sleeps up to 18) or in the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education (WISE) building, which has 24 twin and double rooms. From the railway station in Machynlleth, take Bus 34 or T2 to CAT. At the ticket office, it’s a 10-minute walk up the steep steps to the site’s entrance, but from Easter to October you can take a water-powered cliff railway up to the top (

Plan a good journey: Find how to travel car-free to many of the UK’s best visitor attractions with discounts when you arrive by train, bus, bike or on foot at

New Forest Tour, Hampshire

The car-free New Forest Tour is a hop-on, hop-off bus service that runs each summer on three circular routes around the ancient forest and to the coast at Barton-on-Sea and Milford-on-Sea. From the top deck of the open-top bus, there are grandstand views of the wild ponies grazing and the many historic villages of the New Forest, en route to places such as the Beaulieu National Motor Museum, Ringwood Brewery and Hythe Ferry, home to the world’s oldest pier train where you can take the short return ferry ride over to Southampton. The flexible hop-on, hop-off tickets mean you can stop off and spend some time at one of the attractions along the way and re-join the bus later in the day. The tour calls at Brockenhurst railway station, which has frequent trains from London, so it’s an effortless, car-free day out from the capital as well as from cities along the south coast, such as Southampton, Bournemouth, and Salisbury.


signage for buses
The New Forest Tour is a hop on-hop off service. Photo: Diana Jarvis/Greentraveller

Whinlatter Forest Park, Keswick, Cumbria

England’s only true mountain forest, Whinlatter Forest provides views across Bassenthwaite Lake, Derwentwater and Keswick and is home to the longest purpose-built mountain bike trails in the Lake District. You can hire bikes and head off on one of the bike trails (Altura, Gorse and Quercus) to reach the viewpoints with speedy descents or take part in mountain bike orienteering along a combination of forest roads and parts of the Quercus trail. There’s also horse riding through the forest, guided walks with alpacas, or you could spend a few hours on the high-ropes course at the onsite activity centre. During the summer, you can reach Whinlatter on the hourly 77/77A bus from Keswick, a wonderful route that’s also known as the Honister Rambler – one of Britain’s most scenic bus routes. Route dates and times may vary so do check the Stagecoach timetable before you travel ( You get free admission if you arrive by bus or by bike (


St Mawes Castle, Truro, Cornwall

The English Heritage St Mawes Castle is one of the most elaborately decorated and best-preserved of Henry VIII’s coastal artillery fortresses built to defend the anchorage of Carrick Roads by the Fal estuary on the south coast of Cornwall. The best way to approach the castle is by sea on the foot ferry from Falmouth, which runs almost every day of the year. The ferry departs from the Prince of Wales Pier, just a short walk from Falmouth Town railway station. After a morning at the castle, you can spend the afternoon at Gyllyngvase Beach, a wide, arching Blue Flag sandy beach from where it’s just a 10-minute walk back to the station for the journey home (  

Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick, Scotland

Learn about Scottish marine life – deep sea corals, kelp forests, marine mammals and the 5 million seabirds that breed around the Scottish coast each year – at this innovative interactive discovery centre. There are live cameras to zoom in on the local wildlife but if you want to get closer to the action, there are several boat trips out to the Firth of Forth, including a 1-hour cruise around the island of Craigleith and the Bass Rock, home to the world’s largest colony of northern gannets – if you’re lucky you may also spot a dolphin. The centre is a 15-minute walk from North Berwick railway station, which is about 30 minutes by train from Edinburgh Waverley (  Weekend first For a small fee, many UK train operators allow you to upgrade to first class at the weekend and on Bank Holidays. Prices vary depending on the operator and the length of your journey, but they all allow you access to the larger, more comfortable seats with extra legroom, plus facilities such as enhanced Wi-Fi and hot and cold drinks served at your seat in the usually quieter first-class carriages (


This is an edited extract from The Green Traveller (£18.99 Pavilion Books) by Richard Hammond 


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